Portal’s release back in 2007 heralded the rise of a new sub-genre of video game: the first-person gimmick shooter. Rather than giving you some guns and pointing you at some enemies, the first-person gimmick shooter tries to do something fancier; open dimensional portals, push a giant ball around, shift between parallel realities and so on. This, in turn, led to the rise of the walking simulator, which is a first-person gimmick shooter where the gimmick is the omission of shooting. Cute at first, less cute these days.
Anyway, the most recent and notable first-person gimmick shooter is SUPERHOT, which you’ve probably heard of due to its PC release setting the Internet on fire for a couple of weeks back in February. I reviewed it back then, check it out. Now it’s on Xbox One.
SUPERHOT, of course, is the most innovative shooter you’ve played in years. You’re a human with (and, sometimes, without) a gun. You can shoot, you can throw whatever you’re holding (causing the target to drop their weapon if struck) and you can move. If you move, time moves. If you don’t, time stands still. Turning causes time to progress at around the same speed as molasses, which will still get you killed in situations where not turning might not. One shot kills you; one shot kills your enemies. Later, you can body-swap into your enemies, essentially a combination of offense and evasion – your old body dies and your new body is, ideally, in a less-assailable position than the old.
There’s SUPERHOT’s gameplay! It’s unchanged from the PC version aside from the relative inaccuracy of using a console controller to play a shooter. Stages are part action and part puzzle; your relative frailty combined with the ease of planning your next move means that you tend to spend more time thinking about what bombastic action stunt you’ll perform next than actually doing it. Finishing a level allows you to watch what you did in real-time, thankfully, which can make for some awesome footage. It can also make for some goofy footage of your character gyrating left and right, but practice makes perfect.
As on the PC version, SUPERHOT offers a campaign and some bonus levels to play through afterwards. There’s a plot that loosely ties everything together, but it’s a fairly typical evil-AI scenario that has fueled gimmicky first-person games since Portal and it isn’t going to blow your mind. Frankly, one imagines that a SUPERHOT where any time spent developing the plot was spent on a few more levels would be a superior game, but that’s not the game we got.
If you haven’t already played SUPERHOT on PC, then it’s absolutely worth your time to check this one out. It’s a first-person gimmick shooter, yes, but that gimmick goes a pretty long way and SUPERHOT doesn’t outstay its welcome. Meanwhile, if you’ve already tried the PC version there’s no need to rush over to your Xbox One and purchase the game a second time; you’ve got it already. Replay it on there instead.